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Press Release

Artist Marc Quinn’s Upcoming Work, Odyssey, to Raise Awareness and $30 Million for the Global Refugee Crisis

  • Odyssey to consist of two cubes of frozen blood composed of donations from 5,000+ refugee and non-refugee volunteers; donors include Paul McCartney, Sting and Anna Wintour
  • Public artwork to be unveiled in fall 2019 at the New York Public Library’s plaza in New York City, followed by a global tour

British contemporary artist Marc Quinn today announced Odyssey, a major non-profit public artwork aimed at increasing awareness for the global refugee crisis and raising $30 million to benefit refugee-supporting organizations and programs. The project, which was created in collaboration with refugees, will debut on the steps of The New York Public Library’s iconic Fifth Avenue building in fall 2019, to be followed by a tour around the world.

“The global refugee crisis is one of the greatest humanitarian tragedies we have seen,” said the artist, Marc Quinn. “The idea for Odyssey began with the simple truth that my blood and your blood is the same; under the skin we’re all the same. Odyssey’s ultimate goal – through showing and sharing our common humanity – is to create an artwork which is social, has a lasting impact and will raise both awareness and funds for refugees. I strongly believe not only that the world remembers through art but also that art can change the world.”

Inspired by the nearly 68.5 million people worldwide who have been forced from their homes, Odyssey is a direct challenge to the divisive conversations currently driving refugee and immigration debates and policy decisions. As a collaborative sculpture consisting of two identical, metric-ton cubes of frozen human blood – one composed of donations from at least 2,500 resettled refugee volunteers and one composed of donations from at least 2,500 non-refugee volunteers – Odyssey embodies the basic idea that we are all connected by our humanity. 

Odyssey is entirely not-for-profit and aims to generate around $30 million through the sale of the artwork and other fundraising initiatives. The International Rescue Committee (IRC), one of the world’s largest refugee-focused NGOs, will receive 50 percent of the project proceeds. The remaining 50 percent will go to other refugee organizations and initiatives selected by an advisory board and trustees of Quinn’s charity, Human Love. This includes emergency aid on the frontline, integration initiatives throughout the world, refugee programs with The New York Public Library and many other projects to be confirmed. 

“Art can be a powerful force for positive and impactful societal change,” said David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee. “We are in the midst of the greatest humanitarian crisis of our lifetime with millions fleeing from crisis and conflict. Now, more than ever before, projects like Odyssey are a powerful medium to educate, engage and inspire individuals, communities and society to act. To stand up for the world’s most vulnerable and demand they are not forgotten.”

Odyssey is supported by a global network of advocates – business leaders, artists, academics, humanitarians – who are lending their blood and voices to raise awareness for the global refugee crisis, including prominent refugees Angok Mayen and George Okeny, as well as non-refugees Anna Wintour, Paul McCartney and Arizona Muse, among many others. 

"I could go on and on with a list of places that I've had to live, leave and flee because of a lack of imagination and the poverty of thoughts,” said Clemantine Wamariya, an author who was forced to flee Rwanda at age six. “I am getting involved with Odyssey because of its creative message that highlights our shared humanity.”

“I am giving my blood to Odyssey to show that we’re all the same,” said Paul McCartney, English singer-songwriter. “No matter who you are, the color of our blood proves we are all one.”

Odyssey will debut in fall 2019 in New York City – a city built on immigration and the ideals of freedom, acceptance and diversity – at The New York Public Library, which since its inception has worked to make knowledge, education and opportunity accessible to all. 

"We are in the midst of a global crisis: more than 65 million people displaced after being denied the opportunity to create lives for themselves in their homelands," said New York Public Library President Anthony W. Marx. "It is important that we call attention to this issue here in New York, a city built by waves of immigrants. Marc Quinn's Odyssey is a powerful, prominent statement, and we are proud to host it on the plaza of The New York Public Library, an institution that has stood for inclusiveness and opportunity for all for almost 125 years." 

The two cubes of frozen blood will be publicly displayed in bespoke refrigeration units and will be housed in a pavilion designed by renowned British architect Norman Foster with the Norman Foster Foundation.

“Art can raise issues of equality and inequality. That has to be one of the functions of art,” said Norman Foster, President of the Norman Foster Foundation. “In Odyssey we had a challenge: to create an environment that will work with the two frozen cubes of blood and be able to adapt to radically different locations and climates. This challenge is primarily architectural but is also an environmental one. In a way, perhaps that diversity of situations also highlights the diversity of the refugee crisis; it is not confined to one continent, nor to one kind of people. It's universal – much like our humanity. We are all the same, under the skin.”

Following Odyssey’s exhibition in New York City, the artwork will travel to locations around the world.  

Odyssey will provide a video platform for self-expression and storytelling, as each person who gives blood is invited to speak on film. In cities where it is exhibited, Odyssey will run these subtitled films on outdoor video media to virtually populate the area with the stories of blood donors, transforming individuals into temporary citizens for the duration of the exhibition. Odyssey’s ambition is to create a platform of equality of voice and of status, as well as a place for human stories as part of the artwork itself. 

For more information on Odyssey, including how to get involved or donate, and to view testimonials from blood donors, please visit www.bloodcube.org and follow Odyssey on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Join the conversation using #ourblood.

About Marc Quinn

Marc Quinn is one of the leading artists of his generation. His sculptures, paintings and drawings explore the relationships between art and science, man and nature, the human body, and the perception of beauty. His work also connects frequently and meaningfully with art history, from modern masters right back to antiquity. Learn more about Marc Quinn at www.marcquinn.com and follow Marc on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook

About Human Love

Human Love is a UK charity established by Marc Quinn to enable Odyssey and to channel Quinn’s broader charitable efforts. Human Love’s board of trustees will identify a range of charitable, refugee-focused initiatives as beneficiaries of 50 percent of the funds Odyssey raises through the sale of the artwork, proceeds of fundraising events and other initiatives created by the artist.

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 28 offices across the U.S. helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.